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Ottawa Fire Department's Early Communications

Audio from Ottawa Citizen. March 27, 1948
00:00 / 01:08
00:00 / 01:49

When a fire alarm comes into Fire Alarm Central at 50 William Street in the Market.  It sets off a maze of flashing lights, bells and ticker tape machines.

In this office, when fire breaks out, two men direct equipment and 450 firefighters in every portion of the city.

                            Ottawa Journal 

                                November 19, 1966

Northern Electric Gamewell 

Municipal Fire Alarm Systems.

Ottawa, 1920.

The first installation in Canada of a Three-Fold Central Alarm Station Fire Alarm System was manufactured by the Northern Electric and placed in service in Ottawa in May of 1940. Pictured is the paper tape register.

Operator Hutchings relays details of a fire by radio to apparatus already responding

to a scene.

Ottawa Fire Alarm Operators Harold Hutchings and

Bill O' Connell

Founder of the Bytown Fire Brigade and Retired Ottawa Firefighter Georges Potvin show how the fire alarm system worked via telegraph signals.

Brian Ross taking out first alarm box_edited.jpg

Retired Chief of Communication Ross White.  

This location was the City of Ottawa Alarm Headquarters located at 50 William Street from 1940 til 1971

The late Ottawa Firefighter Brian Ross taking down the first fire alarm box on King Edward Ave in 1970.  Soon the alarm boxes would be no longer.

test strip.tif

This is a test strip from a box alarm register tape.  Ottawa Fire Department 1965.


Fire call Rolodex card


In 1939 tenders were put out to install a new alarm system. Northern Electric C. Ltd. won the contract to install a new Gamewell Alarm System at a cost of $203,713.00.

The late Brian Ross who worked on repairing the alarm boxes in Ottawa is shown in the video sharing how the inner workings of the boxes are operated.

The communication between the Lineman and the Operator was similar to Morse Code

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